Wednesday, January 30, 2013

One boy...

Thanks for all the comments and suggestions about Gabe.  Some of the suggestions, such as working them together, are great ideas and are things I have been wanting to do anyway.  I have hopes that I will be able to take both Emma and Ramsey out riding with us at some point and they all need to be able to work together to do that.

I may try to start taking Gabe and Tessa on some of our short hand-walking sessions.  For now, I think it is the best I can do, at least until Ramsey's foot no longer needs to be bandaged and he and Emma are no longer confined to the barn most of the time. 

Ramsey's care still takes up nearly all of my time and energy.  The little bit left over goes into keeping everybody fed, watered, and healthy.  There are just not enough hours....The horses have certainly been a bit neglected over the last few months as a result.   I devoutly hope that it won't go on like this for too much longer, but I can't back off of Ramsey's medical care now.  The vets at Cornell told me when I agreed to the surgery that his aftercare and recovery would be prolonged and extensive.  They were so very right.  

I think what Gabe needs more than anything is a steady job.  He is just a couple of months shy of his 6th birthday.  He's a young, energetic, healthy boy in his prime, suffering from the boredom of winter and lack of exercise.  If he had steady employment, the thrill of donkey chasing might not be so alluring.  Unfortunately, I am just spread too thin right now to give him the work he needs. 

Every time I look at Gabe I am reminded of an old farmers saying, do any of you remember this:

One boy is a whole boy
Two boys are half a boy 
Three boys are no boy at all. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What to do?

I mentioned that I bought more firewood over the weekend, the pile seemed to be disappearing at an alarming rate so I decided to take advantage of the frozen solid ground and get some more.  The only way to get a truck near my woodshed is for the truck to drive across the pasture, which can only happen when the ground is dry or frozen.  In order for the truck to get into the pasture, it has to get through the fence.  I usually just push the wire down to the ground and drive over it.  Simple, easy.

The firewood guy brought two loads and the second load arrived early Sunday morning while I was still asleep.  No problem, the guy just pushed the fence down, did his thing and left.  Later, when I went out, I checked to make sure the fence was up, it looked OK.  However, I failed to notice that a little farther down the fence-line, the wire had been cut.  I have no idea why.  Perhaps firewood guy was afraid he would get zapped.

I did not notice that the fence was down, but several hours later, when I had gone into the house for a breif break, the donkeys did.  Normally, it would be no problem, they were just out in the pasture after all.  Out in the pasture with Gabe though, that was the problem.  I glanced out the window to see Gabe chasing Ramsey, Emma franctically and futilely trying to intervene and Tessa just plain confussed. 

I ran out to rescue Ramsey and, eventually, I did just that.  He is unhurt and is OK.  However, I didn't make it there before Gabe had knocked Ramsey right off his feet and was pawing at him.  It was Tessa who saved the day by getting between them long enough for Ramsey to get up.  When Gabe tried to chase him again, Ramsey ran through the fence to escape.  (Here is one of the benefits of poly fencing, the fence got knocked down, but Ramsey was unscathed by running through it.) 

I rescued Ramsey and Emma, captured Gabe, fixed the fence, the chaos stopped and everyone is OK.  But what the hell do I do about this?  This is the second time something like this has happened and I think it is a miracle that Ramsey is unhurt.  I am very careful to keep Gabe separated from the donkeys, but obviously, not careful enough.  The reality is that, no matter how careful I am, stuff happens.  Fences break, gates get left open, animals panic.  Stuff happens.

I have to say that Gabe did not do any of this out of meanness or with the intent to harm.  He sees donkey chasing as a fun and wonderful game.  He grew up with several other rough and rowdy geldings who used to play hard and often.  He signals Ramsey out because he is the only other boy to play with.  Yes, some of it is a dominance issue, Gabe could be a bully if allowed.  Mostly it is fun, fun, fun.

Most horses and donkeys do play well together, Emma and Tessa are a perfect example of this.  Gabe just can't understand that body-slamming someone who weighs 1000 pounds less than he does is not acceptable.  I have no idea how to change this behavior, especially as it is normal horse behavior for a young gelding.     

Gabe is a good horse.  He is a solid and reliable trail horse who will go anywhere and through anything.  He is 100% traffic safe, even around motorcycles and atvs.  He is steady in parades, he'll happily jump on any trailer you point him at.  He is athletic, sound and has a charming and sweet personality.  He loves everybody.  He is that rare horse that everyone seems to be looking for and can't find.....and if he hurts one of my donkeys, I will never forgive him or myself. 

I like to think that they will both grow out of this.  That Ramsey will get bigger and tougher.  That Gabe will mature and be gentler, but I don't see it happening.  Yes, Ramsey will grow, a lot, but not enough to hold his own with Gabe, Emma certainly can't.  Gabe will mature, but I don't see him losing the desire to dominate and roughhouse.  It is not his nature.

What to do?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Stills - The Letter F

The letter F was an apt choice, it sure seems to sum up the whole week. 
Frozen, Frigid, Freezing, Frustrating, Fury, Firewood, Fur, Frisbee and a few other F words that aren't Fit to print.

I had more Firewood delivered over the weekend, much to the donkey's delight.  They soo love firewood.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

The First Battle

I want to thank Cindy D. and Laughing Orca for the excellent information about hydrants, their comments are spot on and if anyone ever plans to install their own hydrant, they should read them.

The problem I am facing is not actually with the hydrant itself as I did all of these things when it was installed and it is draining properly.  You can always tell if a hydrant is draining as it makes a very, very faint whooshing noise as the water drains out of it and if you put your hand over the spout, you can feel the slight tug of air pressure as it drains.  I listen for that whooshing noise every single time I use the water.

The freezing problem I am facing is the water line itself; the heavy, plastic line that runs from the house and feeds the hydrant.  The line runs right in front of the barn and there is about a four foot section  between the bottom of the hydrant and the edge of the barn door where it just isn't deep enough, especially as that is the main traffic area in and out of the barn and it is a horribly wet spot.  I knew this wasn't right when it was installed.  However, I had the excavator, the contractor and a well digger all telling me it was fine and not to worry my little head.  I caved.  I kick myself for it now, but, what can I say?  Dealing with contractors ranks on my top ten list of miserable jobs. 

At any rate, the water is working today and, by some miracle, it does not appear that the line ruptured.  By another miracle, the contractor did show up this afternoon and he has agreed to dig up the line and bury it deeper.  Since the water is working and the ground is frozen harder then cement, we agreed to wait till Spring to actually do the digging - as long as no problems arise between now and then.  Since mud and drainage are a constant problem, he also agreed to use his equipment while he is here to spread out stone and gravel if I pay for the materials.  If he really does show up and do as promised, I will be satisfied.  I would like to say that I have faith that all will work out as planned, but.....I think I have mentioned how I feel about "plans".  Time will tell.

At least I have some reliable help.

"Here Ma, use the grey stuff, it seem to work on everything else."

Reliable up until nap time anyways.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Water Wars

I have been trying hard not to whine about the weather, which continues to be horrible.  Oh, the sun is out and it looks OK, but the wind just won't stop and the temps are brutal.  We had -15 last night with high winds.  Still, I was trying to be philosophical about it, just get through and wait for it to pass.  That was working OK right up until I found the water line in the barn frozen - again. 

Adequate water intake is paramount to keeping equines healthy in cold weather and I work very hard to make sure that my animals have access to ice-free water at all times.  Water consumption is at it's highest level during weather like this.  The two horses drink 25-30 gallons each day, the donkeys polish off 5-8 gallons a day.   That is a lot of water to haul from the house in buckets.

I might be more accepting of frozen water lines if I had not gone to a great deal of effort during the building process to insure that it wouldn't ever happen.  This is not the result of poor design or a lack of forethought.  I spent years hauling water in buckets and I didn't want to have to face that again.  I knew the hydrant would be a crucial element of my barn design and I had a number of conversations about it with the contractor who put the water line in.  I was skeptical about how the water line was installed, but I was repeatedly assured that it wouldn't be a problem.  Oh, how I hate to be right!  This is the third or fourth time this line has frozen and I have had to dig this hydrant up for repairs several times already - by hand.  I am not doing it again.

I called the contractor this afternoon.  I will admit that I was pretty darn close to being in a towering rage about this, but I managed to remain civil.  Maybe if I wan't so darned civil I wouold get better results.  What I got back fromthe contractor was an immediate ration of grief and excuses.  He told me that I must have messed it up if I had dug up and repaired the line myself.   He tells me the hydrant has to be at least four feet under ground to keep from freezing after all.  I agreed wholeheartedly to this last bit and asked why he hadn't buried it that deep to start with.  When he tried to tell me that he had, I offered to pull up some of my photos of the project....
Do you see the hydrant sticking up out of the ground there on the right?  It is a six foot pipe, there should be no more than two feet of pipe exposed.  For an idea of scale, the horizontal boards are two feet apart.  The bottom of the lowest board is ten inches above grade.  The last time I repaired this hydrant (by hand!), I dug the trench down deeper (with my shovel!) so the spout is lower then the second board.  It still isn't deep enough.

I have invited the contractor to come out and see for himself where the line is now and I am going to print out a copy of this photo to aid his memory.  Anybody want to lay odds on whether or not he actually shows up tomorrow?  And people wonder why I build things myself.

OK, I'll try to stop ranting now.  I just couldn't help it.  Sorry.

In the meantime, with the aid of some hot water and the cold, hard sun we had this afternoon, I did manage to get the water running again.  I don't know yet whether the line is broken under the ground so once I had filled all the buckets and troughs, I turned the main line off in the house.  I also did everything I could to keep the frost out of the ground around the hydrant.  I have hay and straw heaped up around the pipe inside the barn, but it clearly isn't enough so I covered the outside area with about 6 inches of straw and an old toolbox, which will add insulation and keep the horses from pulling the straw apart.  I hope.

A bale of straw all by itself was clearly not going to work with two bored horses in the vicinity so I unearthed the tool box.  I'll bet the mice that have taken up residence inside the box didn't have a very good day either.

At least everybody has enough water to drink and haven't noticed a problem.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

When you don't have anything good to say...

don't say anything at all. 

It never made it higher then 6 degrees today with a steady 20-30mph wind.  It's going to be well below zero tonight with continued wind.  I have nothing whatsoever good to say.  Instead, how about some baby videos I don't think I ever posted.  Back when it was warm and green....

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tail Tales

Donkey tails are good indicators of temperature, the colder it gets the tighter they tuck.  We're in for some really brutal cold this week.  Tomorrow's high is forecast at 9 degrees and we'll be lucky to see that I think.

I was unfamiliar with the tail clamp when I got Emma, but I learned fairly quickly that it is a good indicator of a cold donkey.  Especially if it is combined with a hunched back and an unhappy mood.  This si Emma demonstrating last year....

Emma is particularly good at making her opinion of the weather clear.  She gets downright grumpy if she is cold and the change in her demeanor and attitude is almost immediate once I get her blanket on her.  Ramsey's tail tucks in so tight, I can hardly even find it.  I wonder if that's where pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey came from?

I hate using blankets, but I hate having unhappy donkeys even more.  I got an awful lot of this last year until I broke down and got Emma a blanket...

"I'm COLD mom!  How long till Spring?  Can we move?  What are you gonna do about this?"

Blankets are a pure nuisance, but if that's what it take to keep everybody warm and happy and the tails hanging straight, so be it.

Now, if I could just convince both of them to stop growing for a while so I don't have to buy more this year...Emma is already oozing out of hers and Ramsey is on the last hole...Maybe we'll make it till Spring.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Stills - Big Sky

The world has been singularly grey and dark here the last sew weeks, making picture taking nearly impossible.  Then yesterday, when I was ready to once again give up on Sunday Stills, the sky put on quite a show.

I tried to get one of those artsy, dramatic silhouette shots too, but my subject had a most terrible need for a hug instead.  Who am I, to argue with that?  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Keeping Warm

It was 8 degrees when I got home last night and it looks like its gonna go down hill from here.  Good thing Ramsey has friends who know how to sew and made some blanket liners for him.  The seamstresses (that would be Riding Buddy and her mother, NobleWoman) did a much better job then my feeble attempts for Emma last winter.  Ramsey has two of these nicely tailored little blanket liners made of wool that can be layered on top of each other for extra warmth. 

"It's good to have friends who know how to sew isn't it Ramsey?"

"Umm hmm, yeah sure.  Thanks.   ALMOST OUT OF FOOD HERE MA..."
Ah well, you know how it is with growing boys and food...

And Evemarie, the food dish on the bucket  is my "trick" for getting a six month old donkey to stand quietly and patiently for bandage changing and foot photographing.  As long as the food holds out, I can do just about anything, up to and including minor surgery, with no donkey wiggling or squirming.  It makes such jobs much easier and pleasant for both of us. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Snow Donkeys

The bare ground didn't last long.  Ah well, at least it isn't so muddy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Foot Today

I got a few pictures of Ramsey's foot this afternoon during the bandage change. 

The farrier at Cornell took off a lot of excess hoof.  The constant bandaging has made the coronet band flatten and creep upwards giving the foot a stretched and overly long look.  The foot is still overly long, but it couldn't be cut back any further, it will have to wear back over time once the bandage is no longer needed.

As you can see from the position of the surgical hole, the foot has grown over an inch since he had surgery.  Hopefully, once it grows out enough that the it no longer needs bandaging, it will start growing and wearing more normally.  I have never seen a foot that has had to remain bandaged for so long and the results are interesting.  It definitely shows how too much constricture can cause problems.  I often see horses with hoof problems that I believe are caused by wearing too-small shoes.  Ramsey's foot certainly demonstrates how those problems begin. 

I think that with careful trimming, I will be able to correct the issues in Ramsey's foot over time once we can get back to normal.  The foot is too tall and the heels are very contracted.  Both are very common problems for young donkeys and they have been exacerbated by 10 weeks of bandaging. 

The bottom of the foot shows that will still have quite a ways to go.  Sorry for the odd camera angle, the foot isn't really that off-center, it's just darned hard to get pictures.  Another case of needing more than two hands.

The spot just in front of my finger is where the sensitive, internal structures of the foot are still exposed.  If you follow the curve of the foot upwards, you can see light and dark patches in the sole.  The light color on the right is healthey sole, the grey and black on the left is where the abscess traveled under the sole, undermining the whole hoof.  All of that black and grey is going to die off and be repleced over time.  You can really see just how extensive the infection was as there isn't much healthy sole left.  The foot will have to stay clean, dry and bandaged until good hoof grows over the internal strucures and he has a bit more healthy sole to support him. 

He is going to loose a lot more of the frog as well (that's the dark, triangular bit at the back of the foot), but it will regenerate with time.  I think he will have to regrow the whole foot before it is normal again, which may take as much as a year, but I think we will get there.  Someday.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hide and Seek

All the warm air, rain and dense fog of the last few days did the trick.  The snow is nearly gone, at least in the open fields.  That means that donkeys who wouldn't leave the snow-blowed paths last week were out and about today.  It's good to see, if you can find them that is.